Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Holiday in Ganca
A gray January day. Need I say damp and chilly? I went out this morning to buy a scarf, and discovered the town was oddly quiet. I was not surprised that the shops weren’t open before 10 a.m., but even the bazaar seemed unusually still. No activity within, although people were selling herbs, cheese and lemons outside the locked gates. Some people were making tea in the cafes, but tables were set outside. The places seemed to be for friends, not for outside customers. Unusual. I believe this dearth of commercial activity is because of the Shi’ite holiday today - Ashura. commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali. I was surprised by the store closures, because I didn’t think of Ganca as a very Shi’ite city, but honestly I don’t know the city that well, having only stayed here two times before. (Sunni Muslims also regard the day as special, regarding it as the day that Moses fasted to show gratitude for the deliverance of the israelites from Egypt.)
I’ll include some photos here. A typical apartment block in the downtown.
The carvansaray opposite my hotel room. The carvansaray, a meeting place for traders passing through town, was built four centuries ago.
A small mosque by the bazaar. It bears special decorations because of the holiday.
Statues of famous Azerbaijani cultural figures. These are located at the front of the local scientific institute. The creation of the First Azerbaijan Republic was declared at this location on May 28, 1918.
A crowd gathered outside the main mosque downtown. Men were ritualistically flogging themselves with little black switches. Not really flogging themselves - more like a symbolic gesture.